http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/european-union-agrees-to-end-cuba-sanctions/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

European Union agrees to end Cuba sanctions

Posted June 19, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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The European Union on Thursday agreed to lift its diplomatic sanctions against Cuba but imposed tough conditions on the communist island to maintain sanction-free relations, officials said.

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the bloc felt it had to encourage changes in Cuba after Raul Castro took over as the head of the country’s government from his ailing brother Fidel.

“There will be very clear language also on what the Cubans still have to do ... releasing prisoners, really working on human rights questions,” she told reporters at an EU summit. “There will be a sort of review to see whether indeed something will have happened.”

The decision does not affect the United States’ trade embargo imposed on Cuba nearly 50 years ago. The Bush administration has shown no signs of lifting it.

The measures were imposed in 2003 after Cuba imprisoned 75 dissidents and independent journalists, accusing them of working with the United States to undermine the government.

Cuban authorities released 16 on medical parole and four others were freed into forced exile in Spain, but 55 remain behind bars.

In January 2005, the EU suspended the sanctions, restoring diplomatic relations and ending its ban on talks with Cuban officials.

But it also asked Havana to release political prisoners and grant freedom of expression and information to its citizens, and said it would continue supporting dissidents and government critics.

EU foreign ministers at the summit approved a set of conditions to be imposed on Cuba in return for sanction-free relations. They include the release of all political prisoners; access for Cubans to the Internet; and a double-track approach for all EU delegations arriving in Cuba allowing them to meet both opposition figures and members of the Cuban government.

The EU will evaluate Cuba’s progress in a year’s time and could take restore the sanctions if human rights do not improve, officials said.

In a statement last year, Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque’s office made it clear Cuba wouldn’t formally negotiate improve relations until the EU totally scraps the sanctions.

Spain has lead efforts to improve ties, while countries including Britain, the Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden have been more guarded.

The government claims it respects human rights more than most nations by offering a wide social safety net that includes a food ration program and free health care and education. It dismisses outspoken critics and dissidents as U.S. “mercenaries.”

Member Comments

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On June 19, 2008, publisher wrote:

“said the bloc felt it had to encourage changes in Cuba after Raul Castro took over as the head of the country’s government “

Can I read into this that Raul was told if you do X Y and Z reforms, we will lift the sanctions?

It sounds like they just lifted the sanctions for no reason but I wonder if this is payback for Raul’s reforms?

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On June 20, 2008, edward wrote:

It does sound that way, I have to say, and I’m willing to be pilloried by all and sundry for these comments, that the reason for people being locked up in Cuba are for acts that are perceived as anti sovereign and a threat to their security.

Don’t people get a fairly lengthy jail term in the states for crimes against the state?...also, isn’t it right that the european parliament should consider sanctions against the United States for crimes against humanity? The only reason that some countries are being more guarded is their pathetic pandering to the immoral self proclaimed policeman.

Castro himself once said “History will absolve me”...I believe he will be proved right.

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On June 20, 2008, nacho wrote:

The sanctions were largely sympolic and the reaction from Cuba was more along the lines of “whatever, the EU probably benefits more from this PR exercise”
Publisher, I agree, they lifted the sanctions for no reason in my view and could have been a payback to reforms or an encouragement

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On June 20, 2008, publisher wrote:

History would have absolved him if he did not become the new oppressor of the Cuban people.

So, he will get a statue someday in Cuba but I’m not sure many people will look at it with pride, especially once Communism has left Cuba.

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On June 20, 2008, manfredz wrote:

the hard part is always telling cuba, if you do XXX, we’ll do YYY without telling cuba we’ll do XXX if you do YYY.
Think the best example was how the Cuban missile crisis ended - without agreeing to, the US agreed to pull the nukes out fo eastern turkey if the soviets pulled their nukes out of cuba…..

No country likes to be told what to do.

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On June 22, 2008, publisher wrote:

...agrees to end sanctions on a few conditions

Renato Pérez Pizarro | Cuban Colada

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack on Friday gave reporters a preview of the benchmarks the EU will set next week as it resumes a dialogue with Cuba.

Excerpts from the transcript:

“From our consultations [...] we understand that the European Union will set human rights benchmarks for its dialogue with the Cuban government, including the unconditional release of all political prisoners; implementation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, freedom of information and access for Cubans to the Internet; and a dual-track approach for all EU delegations arriving in Cuba, allowing them to meet both opposition figures and members of the Cuban Government.

“These benchmarks send the right message about what is important: the need for the Cuban Government to change the way it treats its citizens. If the Cuban government intends to undertake meaningful change, it will take concrete steps to improve its human rights record, beginning with unconditionally releasing all political prisoners and ratifying and implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

McCormack then piqued the reporters’ curiosity by adding: “There is going to be more to the story in terms of what the EU describes vis-à-vis its benchmarks, and what [the EU] will require of the Cuban government.”

FROM THE DAILY BRIEFING

QUESTION: EU lifted their sanctions on Cuba.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: I do. I have some words here for you, if you just bear with me and let me just read this for you.

The U.S. and the European Union share common objectives in Cuba: freedom, democracy, and universal human rights. We are dedicated to the unconditional freedom of all political prisoners in Cuba. We reconfirmed our shared commitment to these values in the June 10, 2008 U.S.-EU Summit Declaration, urging the Cuban Government to ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and demonstrate its commitment by unconditionally releasing all political prisoners.

From our consultations, and I know that the EU has yet to put these out, but from our consultations, we understand that the European Union will set human rights benchmarks for its dialogue with the Cuban Government, including: the unconditional release of all political prisoners; implementation of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, freedom of – freedom of information and access for Cubans to the Internet; and a dual-track approach for all EU delegations arriving in Cuba, allowing them to meet both opposition figures and members of the Cuban Government.

These benchmarks send the right message about what is important: the need for the Cuban Government to change the way it treats its citizens. If the Cuban Government intends to undertake meaningful change, it will take concrete steps to improve its human rights record, beginning with unconditionally releasing all political prisoners and ratifying and implementing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

So that’s a long way of saying we share the objectives. We think it is constructive that they have – that they will – again, based on our understanding—that they will set these benchmarks.

Now is there a difference in tactics here? Yes, there is, but strategically, we share the same objectives and we’re going to continue to work closely with the EU on an issue of shared concern.

QUESTION: You are disappointed they took this decision?

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, it’s a difference in tactics, okay? They have taken their decision. We’ve talked about it, but we do, and I would refer you back again to this June 10th U.S.-EU Summit Declaration, which is very good. And I think there’s more to this story as well that will come out in terms of the EU talking about its benchmarks and what it will require of the Cuban – Cuban Government for any interaction - and during any interaction with the EU.

QUESTION: Sean, even if you feel that the benchmarks send the right message, don’t you think that the decision to remove the embargo sends exactly the wrong message?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I’ve said, you know, there are different pathways to get to the same objective. We have strongly urged them to adhere more closely to a policy that they had in the past. That said, they’ve taken this decision. And it was after intense consultation within the EU. So what I would ask is for you to consider that there is going to be more to the story in terms of what the EU describes vis-à-vis its benchmarks, and what it will require of the Cuban Government. And that’s positive.

QUESTION: But you didn’t want them to do this and you had urged them to take a different path.

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll – I will stick with my description of our view of this.

QUESTION: And so you think actually it will be stricter than what it appears right now?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think there – let me just say I think there’s more to the story. I’ve already gone out a little bit and talked a little bit of what we understand from our consultations with the EU. I typically don’t do that, but in this case, I thought it was important to help provide a more full understanding of what we understand the EU policy will be.

All of that said, they are going to – they’re obviously going to announce for themselves what it will be. I’m just putting—

QUESTION: When?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think early next week. So I just want to put that out there for you so that in writing your stories, you can consider that fact as well.

QUESTION: So early next week, you expect the EU to come out and say, “Well, we did this, but we really didn’t mean it?”

MR. MCCORMACK: And more to follow, but it will come from the EU. I’ve gone as far as I’m going to go.

QUESTION: So – but right now, you can say – you’re not willing to say that the U.S. is disappointed or you think they should have done something different, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well—

QUESTION: Based on what you know about what’s going to happen or what you previously said is going to happen?

MR. MCCORMACK: This is a tactical difference. This is a tactical difference.

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On June 24, 2008, abh wrote:

Ok, thanks Sean, a tactical difference. 
I love it when Bush can’t admit defeat.